Botswana will this year have representation in the 2017 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League. The 2014/15 champions Township Rollers have confirmed their participation. Rollers spokesperson Bafana Pheto said their preparations are going on smoothly for the competition.
Pheto said their target is to reach the knockout stages. They were busy in the recent transfer window to strengthen their squad. The country has been without a representative in CAF competitions for the past two seasons after local teams pulled out of the competition citing financial constraints. BDF XI and Mochudi Centre Chiefs are currently serving suspension for late withdrawals from the competition in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Despite teams complaining of the expensiveness of the CAF games Pheto said the benefits outweigh the costs, hence the decision to compete. “There are a lot of things that could be learnt from the continental competition as opposed to the money used,” said Pheto.
He said by taking part in the CAF competition will not only give the team exposure of continental football but officials will learn more about the arranging for such big games. Pheto said as they are looking to build a big brand at Rollers, this is an opportunity for them to start relationships with other African teams. “Even the players will get the chance as they have exposure playing against unfamiliar opponents. The technical team will also get to learn some different types of play that might help the team grow,” explained Pheto. According to him, as Rollers are looking to grow, international recognition will be very helpful and CAF championship can come in handy. Usually CAF championship is associated with high costs; hence some teams always pull out of the competition. Pheto said though Rollers have taken the decision to pay in CAF he cannot say they have enough financial power. “We cannot say we have enough; we are continuing to ask for help from some companies and individuals,” he said.
Football analysts have in the past condemned local clubs for withdrawing from CAF saying the move does not only paint Botswana football badly but also denies players exposure. Analyst Fabian Zulu said for local players to grow they need to test their strength and skill against other African players from time to time. Zulu said playing CAF Champions League gives players exposure and experience they need. He insisted that playing CAF competitions help the country when it comes to the national team level as players get the exposure and experience needed to do well.